Implications of Future Northwest Atlantic Bottom Temperatures on the American Lobster ( Homarus americanus ) Fishery Academic Article uri icon


  • Sea surface temperatures of the northwest Atlantic have warmed dramatically over the last several decades, while benthic temperatures have increased at a slower pace. Here we analyze a subset of the CMIP5 global Earth system model ensemble using a statistical downscaling approach to determine potential future changes in benthic temperatures on the northwest Atlantic continental shelf and slope (<500 m). We put future changes in the context of possible impacts of ocean warming on the high-value, wild-caught American Lobster (Homarus americanus) fishery. Future bottom temperatures of the northwest Atlantic under a business-as-usual (RCP8.5) and a climate-policy (RCP4.5) scenario are projected to increase by 0–1.5°C and 1.2–2.4°C by 2050 and 0–1.9°C and 2.3–4.3°C by the end of the century for RCP4.5 and RCP8.5, respectively. H. americanus experiences thermal stress at temperatures above 20°C, and projected increases in temperature is likely to result in changes in the distribution of optimal thermal egg hatching and settlement indicators. Inshore regions of southern New England, where H. americanus biomass and catch have been declining historically, will likely become inhospitable under either future scenario, while thermal egg hatching and settlement indicators will expand offshore and in the Gulf of Maine. These changes imply that members of the fishery based in southern New England may need to recapitalize to larger vessels to prepare for potential changes brought on by future climate warming. Results from the downscaling presented here can be useful in preparing for potential changes to other fisheries or in future climate vulnerability analyses.

publication date

  • December 2017